The 25 Music Videos We Loved In 2015

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2015 was a year marked by its music video diversity, both in style and genre. Our selections range from profound, art house-influenced explorations of the issues of the day, to silly but visually stunning clips. Filmed in either lo-fi or high definition, be they live action or animated, 2015’s music videos had it all. What unites all these audiovisual works is their extraordinary execution and ability to elevate a piece of music to another plane.

Aside from our own staff picks, we asked video directors, producers, and some of our friends to share their favorite videos of the year with us. Here’s an inside look at the best videos of the year, from people who crafted some of the most striking visuals of 2015. –Marcos Hassan

"BAY A SALI BOLANDO 121 BPM" - Matias Aguayo / Directed by Sally Sibbet

Matías Aguayo‘s video for “BAY A SALI BOLANDO 121 BPM” is ironic and spontaneous. The simplicity of the language, the art direction, and amazing choreography that invites you to dance – in a way, the whole clip evokes its Latino roots. It’s definitely something to get flying to. –Marcos Cordova, owner, Suichemachete

"Waves" - Miguel

Since Miguel’s psychedelic video for “waves” dropped back in October, I’ve discovered that the video was filmed at a Los Angeles gem called Good Times at Davey Wayne’s. The 70s-nostalgia bar is the perfect backdrop for Miguel’s raging soul rock number, where he finds himself performing on stage, taking shots, hanging with J. Cole, Wale, and Vanessa Hudgens, and fantasizing (maybe even hallucinating?) about an underwater ménage à trois. The dark setting, contrasted with the gel-lit colors, is stylistically similar to much of Miguel’s Wildheart imagery, but “waves” in particular is too fun to resist. It has just the right amount of debauchery to set the mood for a party or a romp in the bedroom. – John Calderon

"Playa Jacó" - Los Blenders / Produced by Súper Legítimo, Pollux & S3R

Do you like dogs? Do you like dogs running through a forest? Do you like dogs being dogs? Whichever way you like dogs, Los Blenders have dogs for you! Over 600 dogs to be (somewhat) exact.

Mexico City-based surf rock group Los Blenders took a different route with the music video for “Playa Jacó” when they hired S3R, Pollux, and Súper Legítimo. The song clearly lends itself to the usual partying-at-the-beach, drinking-on-the-sand, skating-on-the-boulevard vibes. Instead, they got over 600 perritos to frolic and be cute and carefree in Alajuela, Costa Rica, with a bit of psychedelia mixed in for comedic effect. –Afroxander

"Sound & Light" - Parrot Dream / Directed by Gonzalo Guerrero

Filmed on an icy day at the historic Playland amusement park in Rye, New York, the video serves up a blend of the band’s dream pop sound with their signature visual style. “Sound & Light” is the perfect tune for melancholy, broken dreams and millennial drama. Christina Appel explores a solitary and snowy landscape through her introspective singing and lyrics, melted into synth waves and layers of guitars performed by Gonzalo Guerrero. –Sokio, Ponk Records label head

"Tu Pensabas" - Lola Pistola / Produced by Sea Smoke

Ah, love…doesn’t it suck sometimes?! It’s the kind of thing that makes you want to pull a Norman Bates on your ex, just as Lola Pistola does in this video for “Tú Pensabas.” La señorita Pistola took time away from her work with AJ Davila’s Terror Amor to work on her solo material, and we’re glad she did, as she can rock the reverbed garage tunes like no other.

The video is a dark, leather-jacket affair shot at her digs in Bushwick, with the help of production company Sea Smoke. Lola provides an obvious and direct metaphor for her anger, as she tears apart and stabs at raw meat, spews some dank brewsky like a fire breather, and, in general, lets her emotions run free throughout the Brooklyn ‘hood, all in her Life Is Hell shirt and under the bright beam of a spotlight. –Afroxander

"Hambre" - Gepe feat. Wendy Sulca / Directed by Ian Pons Jewell

The neo-Andean structures used as a location for the filming of this video should be enough to get you caught in its world. If that isn’t enough, the director decided to go with the most literal lyrical interpretation possible. He introduces us to a bizarre world, where cannibalism is normal, as it satiates the hunger of Queen Wendy and her weird followers. Gepe plays the part of the bard in this court, narrating the actions of all the strange characters who live in a popular Latin American imaginary that works perfectly for the music video, with a precise dose of black humor. –Gustavo de la Torre Casal, director

"Vernáculo" - Future Brown feat. Maluca / Directed by Rory Mulhere

This year, we saw the release of the highly anticipated Future Brown debut album. The supergroup, which consists of duo Nguzunguzu, Fatima Al Qadiri, and Lit City Trax founder J-Cush, crafted 11 guest-heavy, globe-trotting bass music tracks, including “Vernáculo,” a straight-up reggaeton number that features Maluca. In the last stretch of 2014, late enough to be left out of 2014’s year-end lists, they released its music video, commissioned by the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM). It was conceived as a TV commercial for an imaginary Future Brown cosmetic line, and features women of diverse backgrounds looking fresh, putting makeup on, and always smiling at the camera, like they’d do in Cover Girl or L’Oreal ads.

Maluca sings and dances to Bollywood-inspired choreography, as 3-D renderings and special effects adorn the video. But what seems like a satirical take on the plastic artifice of consumption and beauty products reaches another level of perversion towards the end of the video, when the images speed up and the models’ makeup begins to decay, producing maximum discomfort. –Cheky

"Crystal Drive" - Raido / Directed by Guillermo Bátiz

If there’s a word to describe the clip for “Crystal Drive,” it would be “iconic.” The mystical, atemporal setting might throw you for a loop at first, since Raido’s previous work seems rooted in neon nights that could only have taken place in the aughts. It’s easy, then, to be confused by the daylight forest setting and the shamanistic elements of the video. Still, it reveals another facet of Raido, while accentuating what makes his music compelling. The way the video is shot – the angles, photography, and edits – manages to reinforce the mystical setting, while adding a modern touch. The key to the video’s strength is in the details, the way the characters and settings aren’t trying to approximate something specific, but rather create their own visual language. –Marcos Hassan

"Soul Train" - Destiny Frasqueri / Directed by Asli Baykal

Destiny Frasqueri, formerly known as Princess Nokia, gave us four minutes of a classic NYC summer with her carefree video for “Soul Train.” The reason it stays etched in our minds at the end of 2015 – despite the drastic (and more enjoyable) difference in weather – is because she took the viewers with her to neighborhoods like Harlem and the Lower East Side. We’re right there with her, dancing on the street and celebrating the warmth of our community. As for the nostalgic vibes? You can thank director Asli Baykal, who shot parts of the video on a Super 8 camera. –Janice Llamoca

"Rush" - Kali Uchis / Directed by Kali Uchis & WIISSA

Shot completely in Super 8 by couple/director duo WIISSA, Kali Uchis‘ “Rush” pays homage to the 60s and 70s. As Uchis’ sweet and soulful voice fills your ears, you’re surrounded by images of 1970s sunshine and high-waisted flare bottoms. During an interview with Noisey, WIISSA discussed Uchis’ strong directorial vision for the video. She even sent them their main source of inspiration, Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse feature Death Proof, which is definitely on display throughout the entire production. WIISSA went on to further explain that the car troubles in “Rush” were actually assisted by an IRL person named “Choco-dile Dundee aka Sexual Chocolate,” who fit in perfectly with the film’s Death Proof theme. Its unique vintage vibe and Tarantino-esque production were executed to a T, making “Rush” one of the best videos of the year. –Zoë Montano

"Ready Pa Morir" - Yung Beef / Directed by Joan Fuentelsaz

In a banner year for the entire PXXR GVNG crew, Yung Beef’s solo efforts seem particularly worthy of note. In the clip for “Ready Pa Morir,” he dives deeper into melancholy and further away from the jokey, crass material some of his other work is steeped in. The video finds Beef aimlessly wandering ruins (the ones of his mind, perhaps?), and being haunted by two female figures, before ultimately meeting his end by his own hands. It’s no fluke that Beef considers Lana Del Rey a kindred spirit; vocal differences not withstanding, both artists have a knack for turning their self-destruction into poetry. Both the lyrics and the imagery are a far cry from, say, “Blanqueamiento de Ano,” but perhaps a truer indication of the art Beef strives for beyond the world of PXXR GVNG. –John Calderon

"See Me" - Tei Shi / Directed by Dreamtiger & Jonathan Wing

Tei Shi‘s “See Me” music video is, at first glance, a stunning collection of images that focus on the strong contrast between the natural and the urban, the old and new, with the Argentine-born artist as the protagonist. But it is deeper than that: it’s a visual homage to Bogotá, where Valerie Teicher spent most of her childhood. It was co-directed by production duo Dreamtiger and Jonathan Wing, and shot mostly in the Colombian capital and also New York City. Through fluid camera movements and beautiful warm color tones, the video induces nostalgia as it explores Bogotá’s old streets and its surrounding natural scenery, with kids playing, shots of little shops and restaurants, and Teicher sitting on a llama. When you pair up the concept and the final result, it is all just heart-wrenching. –Cheky

"Everybody in the Club Getting Shot" - Father / Directed by Pretty Puke

Pretty Puke’s (aka Miller Rodriguez) cinematography in this video references everything youth culture – from Mishka’s lookbook to his dark LA photo series, I really dig everything that he’s doing. Seeing how many Latinos are growing and developing their talent behind the scenes and crafting amazing audiovisual pieces is very exciting. That’s one of the reasons I chose this video, in addition to the fact that Father and Awful Records are some of the most disruptive, rad, and polemical record labels out right now. There’s something intriguing about Miller’s direction in the video, with those Natural Born Killers vibes and all that twerking, not to mention the art and the Pleasures clothing display. –Alan Lopez

"Tu Mamá Te Mato" - Camila Moreno / Directed by Dominga Sotomayor

“Tu Mamá Te Mato” was directed by one of Chile’s greatest filmmakers, Dominga Sotomayor (De Jueves a Domingo, Mar). I think the video and song match perfectly, although, at times, the video surpasses the song in scope and ambition. I love the location, the animals, and Camila singing while it’s snowing. I love the simplicity of the photography. The clip doesn’t try to be too big, because you understand everything it aims for by just looking at the filming location. I hope Dominga keeps doing music videos. –Bernardo Quesney, director

"Calle 24" - Guadalupe Plata / Directed by Beatriz Sánchez

Guadalupe Plata are no strangers to horror when it comes to their videos, so it’s no surprise that their clip for “Calle 24” was a tribute to a cult pic from the genre. Yes, plenty of what happens in the video is based on the Nobuhiko Obayashi film Hausu, but that’s not why it was noteworthy. The band’s double-time hillbilly rhythm immediately sets the tone for the over-the-top stunts and treatment that made it a riot. Plenty of bands in their style are used to doing this kind of kitsch, no-budget horror, but few could pull it off without coming off like dull imitators. All stops are pulled here with artless and laughable effects, and editing that will have you screaming at the screen. This cross-medium feat is impressive, badly done, and hilarious; few could take all those honors at once. –Marcos Hassan

"Ghosts" - Ibeyi / Directed by Ed Morris

Out of all the songs on Ibeyi‘s self-titled debut album, “Ghosts” is one of the most instantly striking of the bunch, as it walks the line between the intimate and celebratory, the joyous and reflective, as we hear their jazzy croon become a Yoruba chant. Its music video represents the song title in a gorgeous and eerie way, featuring sisters Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz performing the song in their signature piano-and-cajón setting, with images of dead flowers and skulls thrown in. The footage, directed by frequent collaborator Ed Morris, is black-and-white and grainy, like it’s been stored for years. Layered shots of the sisters (using an almost a double exposure effect) make the video feel like a visual representation of an out-of-body experience. Ibeyi always releases strong videos on par with their fantastic music, and this is no exception. –Cheky

"Vanity" - Arca / Directed by Daniel Sannwald and Arca

Earlier this year, Alejandro Ghersi told Pitchfork that “it’s not about living my life as a boy or a girl — but I’m also not trans — it’s just that one day you wake up feeling masculine, and one day you wake up feeling feminine. The flickering in between those two states is what’s most fertile for me.” 2015 was an important year for non-binary people, a quest for acceptance of everyone who has been marginalized throughout history for how they identify. “Vanity,” like Arca’s music, didn’t tackle the subject head on, but rather presented it simply for what it is: human behavior. Through the POV of Alejandro’s partner in crime, we see him in an intimate light, flowing emotionally from tenderness to lust in a dimly lit room, a swimming pool, and a city street at night. There’s no implicit commentary or narrative; rather, it is portrayed as the face of human desire, pure and simple. –Marcos Hassan

"Ridin Round" - Kali Uchis / Directed by Kali Uchis & Felipe Holguín Caro

Probably the most anthemic song on Kali Uchis‘ low-key brilliant debut EP Por Vida, “Ridin Round” begged for an epic, badass video. Cue the Colombian moped gang and candy-swiping hijinks. Shot in Pereira, in her native Colombia, the video for the DJ Dahi edit of “Ridin Round” was co-directed by Ms. Uchis and Felipe Holguín Caro. It finds everyone’s fave pink-haired auteur marauding with a beautiful accomplice in (what else?) a vintage low-rider. The video oozes Kali Uchis’ signature hard-candy attitude, but there’s a genuinely sweet twist. The opening scene stars her real family, and the parade scene was shot on the street that she lived on as a little girl. –Beverly Bryan

"Standard" - Empress Of / Directed by Zaiba Jabbar

Empress Of was making a statement on poverty and ambivalence when she put out “Standard” as a single, and its corresponding video is an extension of that sentiment. A body builder holds her upside down in the clip, and whether he’s being protective or holding her against her will is not entirely clear. They interact intimately. He brushes her hair, and she paints his nails; he flexes his muscles for her, and she smiles. Their relationship could be a symbol of Lorely Rodríguez’s view of social dynamics between the rich and poor, where the elite have a literal stranglehold on the lower classes and often turn their worlds to chaos. Where the song questions our views of everyday life, the video only offers a blurry answer, ultimately leaving us to decide if we can be content within the system, or whether we should try to free ourselves from its grip. –Richard Villegas

"Tu Casa Nueva" - El Último Vecino / Directed by Gerson Aguerri

I love the editing and treatment of the video, and I find the analog feeling it transmits interesting. Besides, I’m a fan of Canada, the production house behind the video. – Payola Isabel, director

"Holy Soul" - Salt Cathedral / Directed By Matthew Beck & Brad Tangonan

2015 was a revelatory year for Salt Cathedral, one where they gained lots of attention and praise for their EP Oom Velt. “Holy Soul” is the standout track off the record, full of the ethereal arrangements and beats the band has become known for. The video for the song has us follow a young, lower middle-class man through a full shift at his job – overnight janitorial work at some sort of lodge and ballroom. We get a glimpse into his duties washing champagne glasses, polishing chandeliers, and cleaning the pool, but as he carries out these tasks, we also see him yearn for a life he will likely never have. Adding to the heaviness of our subject’s mood, we also get flashes of his tumultuous home life, which pushes him to a breaking point. It’s a story of struggle, endurance, and resilience, a tale as old as time that never ceases to be relevant. –Richard Villegas

"Métele" - Buscabulla / Directed by Dan Sickles and Dr. Antonio Santini

Unlike Buscabulla‘s videos before it, this clip doesn’t feature a single cameo from the Brooklyn duo. Instead, they handed the reins over to fellow relocated Boricua Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles, the pair behind Mala Mala, a recent doc about the trans and drag communities in Puerto Rico. If you’ve seen it (side note: it’s on Netflix), then you’ll immediately make the connection; the song scores the film’s opening credits, and some of its memorable subjects are featured.

Like any companion to the film should be, the style is also shaped by honey-slow shots, bright colors, and glittery surfaces that pop against the low-contrast scenery, and the tiny but telling details and close-ups that make for supremely evocative moments. The Sickles and Santini touch complements the track’s languidness, while simultaneously elevating its sultriness. The subtle uptick of the tail end of the clip — when los tacos come into play — gets a boost from the spectacular queens on stage. –Jhoni Jackson

"Huitzil" - Porter / Directed by Jorge González Camarena

Nowadays, everyone can make a music video; they don’t have the same value they used to have back in the 90s. You can do everything with your smartphone: shoot, edit, and publish. There’s no need to spend a lot of money on a grand production – you just need to be creative enough. It’s ok, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes, hard work is exactly what we need. What director Jorge G. Camarena did with “Huitzil” restores the value of making a music video, with its amazing production, art design, and cinematographic approach. With the concept of Porter‘s Moctezuma as a keystone, he reimagined the world of our ancestors, keeping the magic and the symbols, but giving them a modern touch. There’s no need to portray Aztec culture the way we already know it; instead, he created a mythological world in which the characters dance, run, live, and fight in a landscape that can easily be found in movies such as Where the Wild Things Are. “Huitzil” is more than a music video; it’s a call for creative people to be bold, to be risky. It’s a beautiful piece that gives hope to an industry that has been taken for granted in times where reality shows are considered more important than music videos. –Daniel Patlan, director and photographer

"Slumlord Rising" - Neon Indian / Directed By Tim Nackashi & Alan Palomo

For Neon Indian’s triumphant return earlier this year, Alan Palomo decided to up the ante by unveiling a short film for VEGA INTL. Night School standout “Slumlord.” The neo-noir piece, co-directed by Nick Tackashi and Palomo and retitled “Slumlord Rising,” contains a plethora of intrigue, violence, and sci-fi, packed into eight minutes. A single viewing doesn’t do it justice; the more you watch it, the more you’re able to slowly piece together (some of) the plot. A mysterious motorcyclist (aka Slumlord) is willing to do whatever it takes to obtain a valuable briefcase. Accompanied by Neon Indian’s powerfully funky and synth-heavy disco beats and vocals, the video’s seedy characters, dark streets, and neon lights pop all that much more. –John Calderon

"Garden" - Hinds / Directed By Pedro Martin-Calero

2015 was the year of Hinds, and with the January release of their debut album, 2016 will be too. The duo-turned-quartet stole our hearts and captivated our ears, thanks to some brilliant demos and an interview with Nardwuar. I can’t remember the last time a band was more deserving of the title “indie darling.”

The group teased their full-length debut with “Garden,” a song whose video is a departure from the band’s earlier work, as they clearly have a budget this time. An artistic and ingenious use of split-screen details a day in the life of a man in a suit who spends some quality alone time with each member of the group. French New wave vibes abound, and we’re all the better for it. –Afroxander